Preview: Gold Coast United v Melbourne Heart

If Melbourne Heart think they're championship material, surely they'll fend off the challenge of last-placed Gold Coast United with ease.

Date: Sunday 8 January, 2012 Kick-off: 6.30pm AEDT, 5.30pm local Venue: Skilled Park

Head-to-head Played: 4 Wins: Gold Coast 1, Heart 1, Draws: 2

Previous encounter Heart 2, Gold Coast 1, 18 November 2011

History: Melbourne Heart registered their first ever win against Gold Coast United last time they met. Matt Thompson ran the show at Skilled Park, putting away an early goal before turning provider with a brilliant lob for Argentine anchor Jonatan Germano.

The hosts pegged one back with a cracking free kick by Peter Jungschlager but it was too little, too late. The result ended Gold Coast's prior dominance over the Red and Whites, and it was also their third consecutive loss - they went on to slump to a club-record five match losing streak, while Heart began their mad dash to the upper echelons of the table.

Form: Past five matches: Gold Coast: DWWDL Melbourne Heart: WWWWL

Summary of form: United were aiming for five consecutive clean sheets, but a 3-2 goalfest in Newcastle put an end to that dream. Unfortunately, they were on the wrong side of that scoreline as well.

They did well to come back from two goals down to level the match, but a sucker-punch goal from Labinot Haliti blew the wind out of their sails and they were unable to find a third. That result leaves them bottom of the table, but it was somewhat of a moral victory given their performance.

Melbourne Heart fell victim to Kossiemania on Big Wednesday, with their 3-1 loss to Adelaide handing them their first defeat in five games. They are, however, still in third spot on the ladder and within striking distance of Brisbane Roar, who are above them only on goal difference and have played a game more.

Match Committee: James Brown should return for Gold Coast after he was rested on Wednesday, and he could have some company. Dylan Macallister (hamstring) is touch and go, Zac Anderson (thigh) should be right but of course Glen Moss (adductor) and Joel Porter (calf) won't see action for some time yet.

Heart will be hoping injured trio Fred (groin), Jonatan Germano (hamstring) and Wayne Shroj (quad) are right for the trip up to south-east Queensland.

Danger men: Ben Halloran - Surely one of the most in-form and damaging players in the competition at the moment. His talents may come as a surprise to the rest of the league, but not to Gold Coast.

Over the past two National Youth League seasons he was one of the club's standout players. Now that he's made the step up to the seniors, he's hot property. With pace, poise and technique, the 19-year-old is already en route to conquering the A-League. If he can continue to do so for the rest of the season, who knows where he'll end up?

Adrian Madaschi - Melbourne Victory must be kicking themselves. How could they let Madaschi slip through their fingers after a seemingly endless trial? And worse still, how could they let arch-rivals Heart pick him up just like that?

It doesn't matter anymore - they did, and now he's formed an integral part of the Red and Whites' back three. Meanwhile, Victory are leaking goals left, right and centre. John van 't Schip should be pulling out all the stops to keep him at the club long after his injury replacement deal expires.

At the end of the day… These two sides were flying high before Big Wednesday. The boys from the Glitter Strip hadn't conceded a goal in four matches and their plan to ditch the wooden spoon and climb up the ladder looked like it was coming off without a hitch.

Meanwhile, Heart were on fire having won five games on the trot, claiming the scalp of champions Brisbane and smashing Sydney 4-0 along the way.

But Wednesday's historic midweek round presented roadblocks for both United and the red and whites. Gold Coast's frugal defence slipped up, letting in three Newcastle goals in a game they could have easily taken something away from.

Heart, too, had a blooper, with Adelaide taking the chocolates away from AAMI Park on an afternoon that would have brought John van 't Schip's men back down to earth after they were talking titles.

Now they'll meet at Skilled Park in a match that will determine just how serious the two sides are. If Heart think they're championship material, surely they'll fend off the challenge of last-placed United with ease.

But if Gold Coast truly think they are deserving of a better ladder position, then their frugal rearguard should put the Jets result behind them and keep another clean sheet. It's intriguing, isn't it? A stalemate could be on the cards.